From ABC of Anarchism
It therefore became their main object to win votes. To achieve that they had to trim their sails. They had to lop off, little by little, those parts of Socialism which might result in persecution by the authorities in disfavor from the church, or which would keep bigoted elements from joining their ranks. They had to compromise.
They did. First of all they stopped talking revolution. They knew that capitalism cannot be abolished without a bitter struggle, but they decided to tell the people that they could bring about Socialism by legislation, by law, and that all that is necessary is to put enough Socialists in the government.
They ceased denouncing government as an evil; they quit enlightening the workers about its real character as an agency for enslavement. Instead they began asserting that they, the Socialists, are the staunchest upholders of 'the State' and its best defenders; that far from being opposed to 'law and order', they are its truest friends; that they are, indeed, the only ones who sincerely believe in government, except that the government must be socialistic; that is, that they, the Socialists, are to make the laws and run the government.
Thus, instead of weakening the false and enslaving belief in law and government, to weaken it so that those institutions could be abolished as a means of oppression, the Socialists actually worked to strengthen the people's faith in forcible authority and government, so that to-day the members of the Socialist parties the world over are the strongest believers in the State and are therefore called Statists. Yet their great teachers, Marx and Engels, clearly taught that the State serves only to suppress, and that when the people will achieve real liberty the State will be abolished, will 'disappear.'
Socialist compromise for political success did not stop there. It went further. To gain votes, the Socialist parties decided not to educate the people about the falsity, hypocrisy, and menace of organized religion. We know what a bulwark of capitalism and slavery the church, as an institution, is and always has been. It is obvious that people who believe in the church, swear by the priest and bow to his authority, will naturally be obedient to him and his commands. Such people, steeped in ignorance and superstition, are the easiest victims of the masters. But in order to achieve greater success in their election campaigns, The Socialists decided to eliminate educational anti-religious propaganda so as not to offend popular prejudices. They declared religion a 'private matter,' and excluded all criticism of the church from their agitation.
What you personally believe in is indeed your private affair; but when you get together with other people and organize them into a body to impose your belief on others, to force them to think as you do, and to punish them (to the extent of your power) if they entertain other beliefs,, then it is no more your 'private matter'. You might as well say that the Inquisition, which tortured and burned people alive as heretics, was a 'private affair.'
It was one of the worst betrayals of the cause of liberty by the Socialists, this declaration that religion is a 'private matter'. Mankind has slowly grown out of the fearful ignorance, superstition, bigotry, and intolerance which made religious persecution and inquisitions possible. The advance of science and invention, the printed word and means of communication have brought enlightenment, and it is that enlightenment which has to some extent freed the human mind from the clutches of the church. Not that she has entirely ceased to damn those who do not accept her dogmas. There is still enough of that persecution, but the advance of knowledge has robbed the church of her former absolute sway over the mind, the life, and liberty of man; just as progress has in the same way deprived government of the power to treat the people as absolute slaves and serfs.
You can easily see then how important it is to continue the work of enlightenment which has proven such a liberating blessing for the people in the past; to continue it, so that it may some day help us do away entirely with all the forces of superstition and tyranny.
But the Socialists determined to give up this most necessary work, declaring religion to be a 'private matter.'
Those compromises and the repudiation of the real aims of Socialism paid rather well. The Socialists gained political strength at the sacrifice of ideals. But that 'strength' has in the long run spelled weakness and ruin.
There is nothing more corrupting than compromise. One step in that direction calls for another, makes it necessary and compelling, and soon it swamps you with the force of a rolling snowball become a landslide.
One by one those features of Socialism which were really significant, educational, and liberating were sacrificed in behalf of politics, to secure more favorable public opinion, lessen persecution, and accomplish 'something practical'; that is, to get more Socialists elected to office. In this process, which has been going on for years in every country, the Socialist parties in Europe acquired a membership that numbered millions. But these millions were not socialistic at all; they were party followers who had no conception of the real spirit and meaning of Socialism; men and women steeped in old prejudices and capitalistic views; bourgeois-minded people, narrow nationalists, church members, believers in divine authority and consequently also in human government, in the domination of man by man, in the State and its institutions of oppression and exploitation, in the necessity of defending 'their' government and country, in patriotism and militarism.
Is it any wonder, then, that when the Great War broke out Socialists in every country, with few exceptions, took up arms to 'defend the fatherland', the fatherland of their rulers and masters? The German Socialist fought for his autocratic Kaiser, the Austrian for the Hapsburg monarchy, the Russian for the Tsar, the Italian for his King, the Frenchman for the 'republic,' and so the 'Socialists' of every country and their followers went on slaughtering each other until ten millions of them lay dead, and twenty millions were blinded, maimed, and crippled.
It was inevitable that the policy of political, parliamentary activity should lead to such results. For in truth so- called political 'action' is, so far as the cause of the workers and of true progress is concerned, worse than inaction. The very essence of politics is corruption, sail-trimming, the sacrifice of your ideals and integrity for success. Bitter are the fruits of that 'success' for the masses and for every decent man and woman the world over.
As a direct consequence of it millions of workers in every country are discouraged and disheartened. Socialism - they justly feel - has deluded and betrayed them. Fifty, nay, almost a hundred years of Socialist 'work' have resulted in the entire bankruptcy of the Socialist parties, in the disillusionment of the masses, and have brought about a reaction which now dominates the entire world and holds labor by the throat with an iron grip.
Do you still think that the Socialist parties with their elections and politics can help the proletariat out of wage slavery?
By their fruits you shall know them.
'But the Bolsheviks,' you protest, 'they did not betray the workers. They have Socialism in Russia to-day!'
Let us take a look at Russia, then.
ABC of Anarchism Chapter 14